MP3: The Only Tune Pt. III
Nico Muhly's 'Mothertongue' has been on my 'to-do' list forever. It's been popping up in all the right places for a while: via a Frieze magazine review, an ATP performance, and plenty of word of mouth recommendation. It's one of those albums that had been on the radar for so long that I could almost taste it. The beautiful/intrusive cover, that heavily-used picture of Muhly grinning, the torrents of acclaim, the post-classical-music connections and associations. There was a Mothertongue-shaped hole in my mind already by the time I heard it.
Just as well it's incredible, then. The album is divided into three movements, each made by Muhly with a different collaborator. They're all arresting in different ways, but the final movement is the show-stopper here. A deconstruction of what sounds like an old folk ditty, "The Only Tune" comes in three parts, and goes through stages of grating noise, shattered vocal snippets, disorientating, booming bass drums with grating vocalizing, and finally an unadorned performance of the song in it's entirety. Heartbreaking. Perfect.
This Vimeo doesn't do the full piece justice, but the melody comes through. It's perfect in it's simplicity, and sounds like it was always written, older than the hills. Listened to in it's entirety, this is a heavyweight work to file alongside Nico's incredible experimental folk album, The Marble Index.